The Beach at Graal/Müritz

During the summer of 1940 we were on holidays at the Baltic Sea. We had rented a small cottage. Auntie Ilse was staying with Mum, little Bodo and me most of the time. Our maid Gertrud was with us too. Dad worked during the week in Berlin and came to Graal only on weekends.

Two year old Bodo must have already been quite a walker. I remember that Dad took us for walks in the nearby forest where we would be looking for blueberries. These berries were quite delicious. We would eat them for supper with some sugar and milk.

The beach was not far from our cottage. We went there every day. A photographer had a shop close by. During the day he often took pictures of people on the beach. The following day he displayed the pictures in front of his shop ready for sale. I think people did not order to have their pictures taken. They bought them only if they happened to like them.

In my files I have two of these pictures. They are more than seventy years old now. I was reminded of these pictures when we went to an Australian beach the other day. In one of these old pictures you can see my father with my mother and Auntie Ilse. The women sit in their ‘Strandkorb’. These ‘Strandkörbe’ are very popular on all German beaches. They are popular still to this day. They are a good wind shelter. I think people usually place them in such a way that they can catch the sun. Mum and Auntie Ilse were always proud of their suntan.

Ute mit Bodo Graal Mueritz Sommer 1940

The other photo shows me with Bodo,  my little brother.

Memories

Daddy’s Anger

My husband and I lived with our two babies at my father’s place. Our application to migrate to Australia had been successful and we were looking forward to soon be leaving old Germany. Since our fare to Australia was being paid for partly by the German government and partly by the Australian government, we had to pay only a minimal amount for the voyage. Even that was hard to come up with since we had absolutely no savings. So my father volunteered to help us out a bit.

As a matter of preparing for our departure, we were trying to get rid of a few things which we could not take along to Australia. We put an ad in the paper, thinking, if we could sell the baby cots and pram, it would mean an extra bit of money for us.

I had not anticipated my father’s reaction to this. My usually so placid and relaxed father blew his head, when he saw the ad. ‘Why didn’t you tell me, you needed more money?’ he screamed. ‘I would have given you more!’

‘Do you have no consideration at all for what people might think, when they realise, that my own daughter needs to sell things in order to acquire a bit of money? Don’t you think people might wonder why on earth I do not provide for my daughter? Have you thought about my reputation at all?’

‘People in my position normally hand those things over to charity. How dare you ask for money for anything like that!’ He just went on and on about it and got more and more excited. I started to get anxious the poor man might get a heart attack. My timid apologies did stay totally unnoticed until he had calmed down a bit. But once he had calmed down, the matter was forgotten. He never mentioned it again. And we never did sell any of the items. We just left everything behind in my father’s storeroom in the basement of the building where he lived.

Out of last Year’s Files

The following is an edited version of what I wrote about a year ago. I was reflecting on what Mum was like during my early childhood years. I was also reflecting on the way women and men communicate with each other.

 

MY MOTHER

Mum doted on me. I was her first born child. I am sure I got a lot of attention during the first years of my life, and not just from Mum, but also from her sister Ilse, who had no children of her own. Later on I realised that my mother would very much have loved to have a daughter in her image. What a disappointment it must have been for her that I was in a lot of ways the exact opposite of her! Maybe I did not like to be a girl. I think I wished very much to have been a boy. Girlish things just did not interest me one bit!

On the ninth of June 1938, when I was not quite four yet, I was very excited about the arrival of a baby brother. In August 1938 Mum left us children in the care of our live-in home-help. Why did Mum leave? I remember a call from Mum’s sister who was holidaying in Westerland on the Island of Sylt. I imagine Aunty would have said something like this:

‘Please join me, I am so lonely on that island here, I don’t like to have to spend all the time with that pretentious mother-in-law. She watches me like a hawk! Please, please, come, spend some time with me. It would be so good to have you around here! We can have such a lovely time together. And listen, I’m going to pay for your airfare. You can stay in my room with me. Mother-in-law is in the connecting room.’

Mum promised her sister, she’d fly to Westerland the same day. She was quite excited about this. In her excitement she forgot to ring Dad’s office to let him know about her plans. Or did she deliberately not ring him because she sensed that he would have objections to her leaving. I remember when Dad came home he was furious when he found out that Mum had taken off to join her sister and left us children in the care of an eighteen year old home-help! I believe Mum stayed in Westerland for a whole week. When she returned, she talked excitedly about how she had been spending time with her sister in Westerland.  Come night-time they waited till Auntie’s mother-in-law was fast asleep, pretending they were going to sleep too. However as soon as they thought the old lady was fast asleep, they escaped through their bedroom window and went dancing. I remember seeing pictures of them that were taken on the dance-floor. They had already acquired a nice brown tan from having spent time on the beach. I remember looking at the photos and seeing how very brown their faces looked in sharp contrast to their white dresses. Two young marine officers, smartly dressed in their uniforms, could be seen with them. Later I found out, that one of the officers was Helmut Lorenz who six years later became Aunty’s second husband after her divorce from the first one. And the other officer was no other than Max Tomscick, who after the war became Mum’s friend and whom she would call ‘Bambie’.

I cannot recall that having to stay without Mum for a week did cause us any hardship. So the young home-help must have coped quite adequately. The baby was probably given formula. When Baby Brother was nearly a year old he developed a skin condition called ‘Milch-Schorf’. He was not allowed to drink milk then. When he was a bit older, he could drink milk again.

Mum’s third child, also a boy, was born during the war in October 1941. We had a Polish maid at the time, who soon cared for the new baby as though he was her own. She became his ‘Dada’. She was the main contact person for the first three years of his life. This second brother became a very happy and contented child, whereas the first brother was always highly sensitive and suffering from Asthma through most of his childhood. In lots of ways Mum was a tremendously caring mother. I remember her being always very concerned when Bodo had his Asthma attacks. He outgrew his Asthma eventually, but maybe he never had a close relationship with any of the various live in home-helps we used to have. I think he had a close relationship with me, his older sister, for the first few years of his life and later on with Peter Uwe, his younger brother. My father, when he was around, would pay a lot of attention to us children. But I suspect, Bodo, being very sensitive, noticed that he did not get as much attention as I did or later on Peter Uwe, the new baby in the family. Bodo failed to establish a long lasting relationship with a woman later on in life.

 

 

TALKING TO WOMEN AND TALKING TO MEN

Women talking to women is easy, uncomplicated; there is no pretence. The women are just being themselves. Unless of course one woman in the group happens to be very dominant with an abundance of male hormones. When there are several such women in the group, there may be constant fighting for dominant positions. As soon as a male person enters a women’s group, the mood in the group tends to change . . . .

My experience is, that I get on very well with women if the talk centres on womanly things. Of course women tend to discuss also certain male issues from a woman’s point of view. Which is fine with me, and I enjoy participating.

However I ask myself, why is it, that subjects, on which I have formed my own opinions, which are not necessarily mainstream, I rather discuss with a sympathetic man than with a woman? Somehow I get the feeling, it is easier to discuss such a subject with a man, if the man happens to be  interested in such a subject. I often get a better response to my ideas if I open up to a man.

Naturally the number of men who are interested in discussions about philosophical questions is limited. It would be a bliss for me, if I had opportunities to meet such men on a regular basis.

 

 

After the War (1945)

 

When the front in the east broke down, my father discharged his driver and he discharged himself. He ‘organized’ a bike for himself and started cycling towards Leipzig in civilian clothes.

 

 He arrived in Leipzig in the very early morning hours and went straight to Sophienstrasse, believing us to be there at grandma’s. What a fright he experienced, when he saw the bombed out place with a huge pile of debris, where the entrance should have been! He cried and cried, because he thought, we were all dead. It was still a bit dark and he could not see clearly. Next thing he thought, he ought to enquire at the police station, whether anyone in that cellar of Sophienstrasse 20 had survived the bombs.

 

To his relief he found out at the police station, that everyone in that cellar had survived! They were also able to provide him with our new address in Leipzig, which was the place of grandma’s sister. That meant he did not have far to go to find us. I remember, waking up that morning, where Mummy was already awake, sitting up and talking to Daddy, who sat at the end of the bed!

 

The Americans, including the Canadians, were still in Leipzig. I cannot remember, that there had been any fighting in the area before the Americans came. The Canadians I had seen first. They were all very tall, very slim looking guys, probably only around twenty years old. They moved through a neighbouring street in their jeeps. Some soldiers were walking close to the jeeps, extending cables along the road.

 

Some German civilians stood around, watching our ‘occupation force’; they were clearly amazed, how good-looking, fresh and young those soldiers appeared. They did their work in a non-hurried, casual way, here and there throwing some friendly glances towards young and old people, who stood watching them. To us, this meant, the war was over.

 

In this beautiful spring weather we could look hopefully to the future again. Since my grandmother’s old apartment had been destroyed by bombs, and since her family of seven needed accomodation, she was allocated an apartment after only a few weeks waiting time. The new apartment was in a different part of town, not so close to the city any more, but still close enough for walking to the city centre.

 

I cannot remember how all the furniture, which Grandma had saved from the ruins of her apartment, got to the new place at Friedrich-Ebert-Strasse. But I know for a fact, that every piece of furniture had been set up in the new place. The residential buildings were only on one side of Friedrich-Ebert-Strasse, the other side of the street was a nature strip along a canal.

 

We kids went for lots of walks with Dad along this beautiful nature strip during the upcoming summer months. As far as I remember Mum never came along for these walks.

 

In June 1945 the Russians replaced the American occupation force in Leipzig and the Americans moved to Berlin. It so happened that our apartment in Berlin was from then on in the American Sector of Berlin!

 

What sticks to my memory is how contingents of Russian soldiers marched through the streets of Leipzig, singing loudly. The had marvellous voices!